July 2008, I began a six months Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme, popularly called Industrial Training at the Centre for Energy Research and Development (CERD), managed by the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority- located in the premises of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. One of the most important facility CERD has is the 1.7Mev Tandem Accelerator. As at 2008, the 1.7Mev Tandem Accelerator costs over one million US Dollars.
One of the professors of CERD went to Durham University, UK, for further training on the use of the 1.7 Mev Tandem Accelerator. On his resumption to office, he held a seminar on the knowledge he had gained by demonstrating them on power-point slides. Towards the end of his presentation, he showed us a picture of three people; himself, his instructor and a young lady. He said ”the young lady is an undergraduate of chemistry department of Durham University, who had just concluded the same three months training on the use of the facility with me”. He also said that ”the 1.7Mev Tandem Accelerator is located in the Chemistry Department of Durham University, so students could train with the facility”.
The seminar generated a great deal of turbulence in my brain. I asked myself, can you imagine a UK undergraduate undergoing the same kind of training with a Nigerian University professor? So I also compared what the quantum of impact the Durham University undergraduate (as well as her classmates) would add to the economy of her country when she eventually graduates with what a graduate of Nigerian tertiary institution adds to the economy of Nigeria. To be factual, the seminar was an eye opener to the problem of unemployment in Nigeria.
The self sufficiency Nigeria has in the medical field is as a result of the requisite training and ‘institutionalisation’. Doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists and nurses are trained in specialised institutions called Teaching Hospitals. Unlike the engineering students, they don’t need Industrial Training, as adequate theoretical and practical knowledge is given before graduation..
So I keep asking, what would be the quality of a fresh graduate doctor if all the training he received were mere classroom training? I mean a training lacking the teaching hospital experience, but replaced with a six months medical/industrial training in any kind of hospital, clinic or medical centre. What would be the quality of a Nigerian graduate engineer and scientist, if given adequate theoretical and practical training while as undergraduate?
Nigerians are yet to understand the root cause of graduate unemployment. Competence, productivity and job opportunities in developed nations are directly proportional to the extent of training acquired by the graduates of those nations. Nigerian graduates of agriculture, engineering, physical and biological sciences have contributed too little in their various fields because were given lesser than thirty percent of the required training. Instead of receiving ”inside-out-training” (adequate training on campuses to perform after graduation) like their counterparts who studied medicine, physiotherapy, accounting, law and architecture, what they receive is an ”outside-in-training”.
My proffered solutions are explained below.
Firstly, there are identified private organisations that have got massive investments in education, health, media and other socio-economic activities. I am confident that if these organisations are properly harnessed, they are capable of providing investments worth over 100 billion naira in the agricultural sector over the next ten years. The major challenge is how to sensitize them so that they can do more in the economy.
Moreover, I believe in the institutionalised of every course of study which will provide adequate theoretical and practical training of undergraduates. Engineering students should have state of the art facilities in the recommended ”engineering villages” in order to replace the empty laboratories and workshops, while science students should have something similar. I do not subscribe to the Nigerian method of gaining practical experiences in which Industrial Training provides, because we have seen that medical students have adequate expertise as a result of the training they received in their specialized institutions.
Undergraduates studying agricultural courses should be empowered (both with finance and modern implements) to own farms before and after graduation. I believe funding of our agriculture student/graduates is possible since the government can pay huge sums medical students on internship. We need to fix the graduates of agriculture in our agricultural sector, as in people who can access information, modern tools and techniques for abundant food/job production.
My point as touching entrepreneurship is that it is an inordinate thing to degenerate graduates into practising entrepreneurship of making pop corn, chin-chin, frying akara, selling imported wears, operating a beer parlour, laundry, salon and businesses. I believe in a graduate entrepreneurship where an electrical engineering graduate can venture into electrical equipment design and manufacturing to solve power problems while other science and engineering graduates do similar things in their fields. Nigeria must transform herself from mere and unsophisticated entrepreneurship to science/technology/research driven entrepreneurship.
As at today, Nigeria has no reason to export crude oil as long as multinational oil companies can invest into oil refining, petrochemical and gas-to-power generation. What we need to do is to set out modalities that will ensure they refine our crude oil, make petrochemicals for local consumption and export whatever remains as this will help create much jobs.
I advocate that the government should reverse the privatisation process of PHCN because the beneficiaries of the privatisation lack the experience and financial capacity to revamp the power sector. The anomalous situation going on is that, the federal government is still investing billions of naira into the power sector despite the sale. I believe that multinational energy giants such as General Electric and Siemens should be encouraged to take over PHCN and invest massively.
Lastly, it is so easy to attract FDI when favorable conditions are put in place for investors. Nigeria doesn’t need to beg for investments, what Nigeria needs is to put in place are adequate infrastructures, such as good transportation system, efficient power supply as well as incentives for prospective investors.
Adeyemo Olajire Philip